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2018 Pre-NFL Combine Overview/Mock Draft: Tight Ends (FINAL)

Air Date:
February 14, 2018

TE prospects today. WRs Thu-Fri.

Ground Rules on this NFL Combine preview scouting:

 -- Looking at the initial performance data from their college years in our system.

 -- Watching 10-15+ minutes of tape

 -- Giving an initial knee-jerk reaction to what I am seeing/feeling.

 -- Will rank them as if I am drafting them for the dynasty rookie draft, and I will also break them into tiers

 -- We don’t have the full host of measurables, so my reactions could change when I see the physical times and attributes. Sometimes your scouting eyes deceive you on how fast a player is moving, etc. We will be doing all the full-fledged scouting of these players after the Combine data is in.

 -- This ‘draft’ and analysis will drop in a player at a time at various times throughout the day. Check the clock on the title to see when the latest post was made.

 -- Height/weight is latest estimates we have from their listed info or all-star games, etc. Not official.

 -- Going prospect by prospect in alphabetical order.

 

The NFL Combine Tight Ends…

 

Current consensus top 5 TE prospects in the mainstream…

1) Mark Andrews, Oklahoma

2) Dallas Goedert, So. Dakota State

3) Hayden Hurst, South Carolina

4) Mike Gesicki, Penn State

5) Ian Thomas, Indiana

 

 

*Five Tiers: A, B, C, D, F…like school grades. Players listed in ‘my favorite’ order.

 

 

**Tier A**

 

Dallas Goedert, South Dakota State (6’4”/260)

Without a doubt the best hands in this TE class, and maybe of the past several. You’re going to get inundated with a lot of ‘Baby Gronk’ and peppered with his highlight reel leading into the draft…which it is pretty magical. He makes catches you can’t believe. The Larry Fitzgerald of TEs potentially.

Watch the first 4 catches here, and you’ll fall in love…seriously. https://youtu.be/S8XIc9WLYOI

He’s has the NFL size and seems to have enough speed and agility to be a starter in the NFL, and he definitely has the hands. He doesn’t have the ‘A’ grade athleticism or big/thick frame to be a no-doubt elite tight end, but he may be as good as there is in this draft. He’s the Adam Shaheen everyone in the NFL was hoping for.

I would summarize my ranking here as (and don’t forget we’re looking from a dynasty-fantasy perspective) – I know Mark Andrews will be drafted higher and is more what the NFL is looking for. You can’t go wrong with Andrews. Goedert is a B/B+ prospect and possibly an A/A+ as a receiver…what we want for fantasy.

The NFL Combine may knock him off this perch if he is much slower than expected (projecting around 4.7 40-time) but outside of that – he’s in the argument for best in class.

If he runs a 4.50 range 40-time…let the Gronk comps begin as well as the debate by me whether he is not the true 1.01 in the 2018 dynasty rookie draft.

 

 

 

**Tier B**

 

Mark Andrews, Oklahoma (6’4”/255)

Perfect looking NFL tight end…big/NFL-sized, muscular, tough, nimble enough feet, good hands, nice blocker. He’s a slightly slower Travis Kelce…or he is a carbon copy of Kelce. He’s not the total ‘wow’ like a Gronk or Jimmy Graham or Evan Engram, he’s the step below that…a solid, quality TE like Zach Ertz (better than) or Kelce.

Where Andrews lands/QB he plays with means everything for his fantasy value. He’s not a creator of activity but he’s the perfect stable, quality TE. I’ll put him in the ‘A’ camp for now…but he’s an A-/B+ for fantasy. Not perfect, but the NFL is going to love him.  *Changed him to ‘Tier B’ midday.

Hayden Hurst, South Carolina (6’5”/250)

An above-average athlete at TE…and he might be more pushing a top athlete at TE in this class. Good hands. Nice agility. Might be a sub 4.7 runner…ran the ball 9 times for 30 yards and a score on ‘jet sweep’ type plays. Nice speed after the catch. Very tough player and plays at 120 miles an hour.

Watching Hurst, and enjoying what I was seeing, made me start to devalue Mark Andrews big picture. I’m not so sure for NFL and FF purposes that I wouldn’t rather have Hurst…and that’s not a swipe at Andrews.

 

Jordan Akins, Central Florida (6’3”/245)

Looks and moves like a legit starting NFL TE. Was a nice WR his first two seasons at Central Florida, and also a really good kick returner…was 2nd in the American Athletic Conference in KR average in 2014. He bulked up a little bit and became a TE…a really nice, fluid one.

At first glance, Akins is between Jordan Reed and Evan Engram…a good/great ‘move’ TE. Has the look. I’m impressed.

Christopher Herndon, Miami, Fla. (6’4”/250)

This is the type of TE prospect only college can produce…because the NFL is so antiquated they cannot envision such simple outside-the-box thinking…

Herndon plays TE but also worked some as an H-back/FB, but not just for blocking…but as a pass-game weapon (and could’ve been used much more). He looks like a big tailback. He wore #23…but was a TE. Miami would line him up in various places and shoot him out in the flat or give him near bubble screen type plays. He can move like a top fullback with the ball. I LOVED the way he was used in college…

However, he’s headed to the NFL…where they are looking for ‘next Gronks’…not unique pass game weapons. Some team will draft this very unique talent and jam him as a second TE and have him blocking 99% of the time…instead of exploring the TE/H-back/FB cornucopia he could bring to the offense. Herndon might run a sub 4.60 40-time and maybe get smarter NFL teams thinking.

Very nice sleeper here based on some NFL taking him with a creativity intent.

**Tier C**

Tyler Conklin, Central Michigan (6’4”/240)

This guy has great hands…just a natural, smooth catcher of the ball. He’s a little slow, I think, to get super excited about (like a 4.7+ 40-time) but his ‘C’ speed combined with ‘A’ hands makes him a ‘B/C’ grade TE prospect.

Conklin might be a ‘B’ who could be a ‘B+’ in a great landing spot or a ‘C-‘ if he lands with a weak offense. He’s a better fantasy TE prospect than NFL one…he’s a receiving talent first and traditional tight end second. He’s not a bad blocker but his money is made with his hands. I hope he runs low 4.6s or better and we can get more excited.

Jaylen Samuels, NC State (5’11/225)

*Considering him just as a TE/FB not as if he could be a starting RB in the NFL (which he can).

Great receiving skills, but the size is not-NFL preferred. Could be a real weapon but would likely be left in the garage in the NFL. He’s such a unique talent…possible three-down RB, possible star ‘move’ TE. I just love the possibilities…and fear what happens when NFL coaches gets their dull, unimaginative hands on him if he were used as just a TE/H-back/FB.

Dalton Schultz, Stanford (6’5”/240)

The capable NFL TEs just keep popping up this entire day. Last draft year gave us two elite TEs and several other good prospects -- what people called the deepest TE group in years…and I agreed. This class…even deeper. Not as top heavy, but more/better. The paradigm in the NFL is going to shift…an abundance of talent coming in waves into the NFL. NFL teams should throttle back free agency and get more mid-draft draft picks and could build a dynasty in two years…if they knew what they were doing.

Schultz looks like a big WR as much as he does a solid-sized NFL TE prospect. He has above-average athleticism, good hands, and is a nice blocker. He’s a legit prospect. He wasn’t a ‘wow’ prospect but I don’t know that Stanford really set him up to be. There’s more here than his college output foretells…kinda like George Kittle’s tape lulled people to sleep pre-Combine/Draft.

Mike Gesicki, Penn State (6’5”/255)

Growing to like him a little more each time I watch/preview. Had a solid Senior Bowl week. He looks a little awkward/gangly among the legit TE prospects but that may be an optical illusion bias. He seems to move well and has above-average hands with nice length/reach.

Gesicki has average athleticism with nice height and hands. He’s useful, a possible NFL starter and red zone threat with his reach. His NFL Combine times could be a real game changer (one way or the other).

Ian Thomas, Indiana (6’4”/248)

Very good downfield receiver…one of the best in the class. Has a knack for getting open and making deep-ball catches/plays. He’s not a highlight reel catch guy…he’s just a good, quality option in the passing game. Came on big as a senior and had erratic targeting so his numbers were up and down but had some big games/big plays.

We have to call Ian Thomas a ‘sleeper’ at this point. He could be a grade/tier better, but his tape is limited to a few games of goodness for his college career. I thought he was quality at the Senior Bowl as well.

 

Marcus Baugh, Ohio State (6’4”/250)

Has the look of a starting NFL TE, but I didn’t see any ‘it’ factor on tape or in numbers. A little slower, stiffer (especially after watching Akins and Andrews right before Baugh). Hands are so-so. In a 10 second glance, you’d think he’s an A-B grade TE prospect. After 10 minutes of tape and having just studied Mark Andrews and Jordan Akins…not so much. He’s more a ‘C’ for me.

 

**Tier D**

 

Jordan Thomas, Miss State (6’5”/290)

This will be interesting…a 290-pound TE who can move pretty well/really well. What does the NFL do with him? He’s not a great traditional TE…he’s more a sweet blocker setting up things on the wings…again, another event where college is so far ahead of the NFL in trying unique things with unique players. Miss State would split Thomas all the way out like a flanker/WR…and then have a virtual O-Lineman with him outside blocking on running plays or bubble screens. It’s so smart…and so not what the NFL will even try with him.

Thomas will most likely be pushed to the O-Line, and why not? He’ll go to waste as a slow/huge TE never seeing the ball or the field. If he’s going to get type cast as a blocker, they might as well go all in and move him to the line…a very nimble 290-pounder who can add 10 pounds and be an OL option. If he runs a 4.7s 40-time…he’d be an elite O-Tackle for speed.

Even if Thomas stays at TE, it’s doubtful the NFL will do anything besides have 1-2 plays up their sleeve and run them once a game for him. Very interesting TE prospect but very likely to go to waste for anything fantasy related.

Also…what happens if he drops 20-pounds and is a stud TE with speed-agility? His NFL Combine results are going to be very interesting.

Troy Fumagalli, Wisconsin (6’5”/248)

Solid hand at tight end but not a star in the making. Needs a year to build up his upper body. He will be a backup TE in the NFL trying to work his way to become a low-end starter someday. Nothing exciting I see here…and didn’t see it when studying him at the Senior Bowl either.

Durham Smythe, Notre Dame (6’4”/255)

Very good blocker. Has good feet. Looks like he could be better in the passing game, but he was rarely used…and that seemed more a function of the offense. I need to study him more because there’s not much but blocking on his game tape what I saw. Legit size and movement for the NFL…not sure if he’s a receiving threat at all.

David Wells, San Diego State (6’4”/255)

Displays nice receiving skills at times…when he saw targets. San Diego State is a run-run-run team, not much for passing. Wells shows size, decent athleticism, and capable hands. Not enough work displayed to get a better idea. Not a star but useful…maybe a sleeper…deep sleeper to play regular in the NFL.

Will Dissly, Washington (6’4”/265)

Former DE turned TE…used on and off in 2017, not a starter. Has an NFL body and seems to move well for his size but does not look like a graceful TE…more of a blocking wall TE.

**Tier F**

Ryan Izzo, Florida State (6’4”/253)

An NFL-worthy body but more of backup TE. Is very capable but nothing special as an athlete or otherwise. A forgettable TE prospect in a loaded class.

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About R.C. Fischer

R.C. Fischer is an NFL Draft analyst for College Football Metrics, and a football projections analyst and writer for Fantasy Football Metrics. 

Learn more about RC and the College Football Metrics system >>